The Democrats introduced the bill aiming to reverse a non-negotiation clause that President Bush insisted on including when the Part D Medicare drug prescription subsidy law was first created in 2003. Democrats charged that the non-negotiation clause favored lining the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry instead of helping lower the cost of prescription drugs for the average American.
Opposing Republicans today, however, say that the Medicare program does not have enough leverage to succeed in lowering drug prices.
Congress member Joseph Crowley, D-NY, said that negotiating is necessary to combat the rising cost of drugs.
“Drug prices have risen [at] twice the rate of inflation and older Americans have had to pay dearly for the prescription medicines they need. With this legislation, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will have the power, and be required, to negotiate the price of drugs for our nation's seniors.”
Crowley cited a Kaiser Family Foundation poll that said more than 80 percent of Americans believe the Department of Health and Human Services should be able to negotiate lower prices, and want the bill passed.
However, a report released from the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan research arm of Congress, questions whether successful negotiations are possible.
The bill "would have a negligible effect on federal spending because we anticipate that the secretary would be unable to negotiate prices across the broad range of covered Part D drugs that are more favorable than those obtained by the prescription drug plans,” the Boston Globe quoted the CBO report as saying.
"The U.S. federal government has become the lapdog of the pharmaceutical industry,” natural health adviser and published author Mike Adams said. “We now have a government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations, and this action by President Bush will guarantee continued Big Pharma profiteering at the expense of the American people.”
The bill passed with a 255-to-170 vote. In addition to a unilateral “yes” vote from all House Democrats, 24 House Republicans also voted in favor of it.
Recently, a bill has started to gather steam in the Senate that would similarly lift the ban on Medicare negotiations.